He helped Felipe up into the carriage and jumped in beside him. Felipe gave a quick slap of the reins and they were off for town. On the way, Diego made a few adjustments to his tie and sash and finally settled back for the ride to town.
When they finally arrived, Felipe waited in the carriage while Diego went into the tavern to get Victoria. Luckily all the patrons had left for the evening and Victoria had just finished her usual cleaning and straightening of the tables and shelves in the tavern and kitchen. She was just coming out of the kitchen to go change her clothes when she saw Diego. Her eyes widened and she slightly gasped as she put her hand over her mouth.
"Diego! You're early! I wasn't expecting you so soon!" she replied as she blushed.
Diego calmly walked up to her and smiled. "I'm sorry, I guess my watch is a bit fast. I thought I was running late!" he commented regretfully.
She looked at him resolutely and slightly shrugged. "Well, I hope you don't mind waiting. It will only be a moment." She stated decidedly.
Diego looked at her and smiled. He was amazed at how pretty she still looked even after working hard all day, waiting on customers and rushing about. It was obvious, that she loved her work. He very seldom heard her complain or talk of giving up. She always loved being around people and meeting people from different backgrounds and different places. She never turned anyone away whether they could pay or not. That was just her way, and he loved it…he loved her! His only wish was that he could he tell her that he and Zorro were one in the same. But that would only complicate things, or so he thought. Right now he just wanted to let things be the way they were until he felt that Zorro was no longer needed. Then he would be able to explain everything…maybe!
As she started up the stairs to her room, Diego momentarily spoke up. "Is there anything I can do to help?" he inquired amiably.
Victoria looked at him inquisitively and slightly blushed. She shook her head. "I don't think so Diego!" she put her hand to her mouth and slightly giggled.
Diego suddenly realized what she was thinking and slightly blushed. "I…uh…mean…is there anything down here I need to do?" he inquired somewhat reserved as he tripped over his own words.
Victoria shook her head and flashed an endearing look at Diego and smiled. "Oh…no. Thank you for asking though. You're welcome to help yourself to anything you want while you're waiting." She offered warmly as she continued up the stairs to her room.
Diego nodded and walked over behind the counter and found a small carafe of wine and a glass and poured him some wine. 'This may take a while.' He thought. Diego looked around and wondered if she had anything to read.
As he looked behind the counter, his eyes fell upon a poetry book lying against the wall of the counter. He picked it up and studied the cover and flipped through the pages. As he opened the pages, a rose that Victoria had pressed between the pages fell to the floor. He bent over and carefully retrieved it. He looked at the rose and then at the page it fell from. As he read the poem, a warm feeling suddenly came over him. It was the same poem that he had recited to her as Zorro and he had given her that rose. He smiled and sighed as he gently placed the rose back in the same place it had fallen from. He took the book and walked over to a table and sat down and began reading some of the poems. He noticed that she had underlined some of the titles to the poems he had recited to her as Zorro.
'I wonder where she got this book.' Diego thought. 'I don't remember giving this to her.' He looked at the inside cover to see if maybe he had forgotten that he had given it to her. There was only one name in the book…her name. 'Oh well, maybe she bought it for herself.' He thought.
As he scanned the book, suddenly a strange feeling came over him. He looked at the front of the book once more. His eyes suddenly widened. 'This is the same book that's in my library at the hacienda. She must have read it. Which means…if Zorro recited these poems…then…' Diego quickly closed the book. He felt his heart start to race. 'I wonder if she knows?' He thought. He quickly got up and placed the book back where she had kept it. 'Maybe it's just a coincidence. Yes, that's it!' Diego thought. He knew she always loved poetry. 'That's it, she saw this book and had to have one for herself!' Diego slightly shook his head and tried to clear his mind. 'I can't let her know that I found that book! I guess I'd better start reciting from another book.' He thought. 'Otherwise she'll know for sure!'
Diego took out his handkerchief and slightly dabbed his brow. 'First the Alcalde, now Victoria! I hope I have a better day tomorrow!' Diego thought resolutely.
He picked up his glass and took a drink. As he was about to pour himself another glass, he heard the door to Victoria's room close. He turned and walked over to the stairs just in time to see Victoria wearing the most beautiful dress he had ever seen. It was pale blue with ruffles that hung in layers around the skirt of the dress. The top was trimmed in small lace around the edges of the shoulders and neckline and fell just slightly below the shoulders. The sleeves were gathered short and slightly puffed. The neckline modestly curved across her chest and was accentuated with a small slender bow that hung loose in the front. Diego thought she looked absolutely gorgeous!
As Victoria gracefully descended the stairs, Diego caught himself following her every movement. Even as she stepped off the last step and turned and faced him, his eyes never left her. Everything about her was captivating. Her hair, her face, the way she smelled. Her eyes…that familiar sparkle that Diego thought had faded had returned and brought a certain light in her eyes that held Diego almost spellbound.
Victoria blushed as she noticed Diego's eyes upon her. Victoria lightly touched his cheek and looked at him slightly concerned. "Diego…are you all right?" she queried earnestly.
Diego heard her words seemingly echo in his mind. He momentarily blinked and looked at her and slightly blushed. "I'...I'm sorry…what did you say?" he slightly faltered.
Victoria slightly chuckled and shook her head. "Never mind Diego." She replied calmly.
Diego took her hand and lightly kissed it and smiled. "You're looking very lovely tonight Victoria!" replied Diego looking passionately into her eyes.
As Victoria gazed into his eyes and felt the weight of his stare upon her, she was almost sure it was him. Who else could it be? That same impenetrable stare, those warm blue eyes that seem to capture your soul and steal your heart forever. But why wouldn't he tell her? She wouldn't dare ask him! 'No!' She thought. She would play this out to the very end. One day, when he was ready, he would tell her. Maybe not right now…but…some day!
She quickly averted her eyes and glanced toward the door. This time she would be the one to look away, instead of him. She looked back at Diego and smiled. "Well, I suppose we should be going!" she remarked succinctly as she looked at him hesitantly.
Diego suddenly gasped and put his hand to his head. "Felipe! I forgot about Felipe! He's waiting in the carriage! Diego remarked shaking his head looking somewhat dismayed. He looked at her earnestly and smiled.
"You know, this is all your fault!" Diego replied tauntingly.
Victoria looked at him somewhat disconcerted. "My fault! What are you talking about Diego?" she responded with a slight edge to her voice.
Diego looked at her affectionately and smiled. "Well, you had no business looking so beautiful!" he replied smugly, and winked at her.
Victoria smiled and shook her head. "I'll have to remember that the next time you invite me to go out with you!" she replied resolutely.
Diego looked at her and smiled. "He's probably asleep! I shouldn't have asked him to come with me. He's been so busy helping father out around the house all day he's probably exhausted." Diego commented sympathetically.
Victoria nodded and quickly slipped on her wrap. As she and Diego walked out to the carriage, Diego walked around where Felipe had been sitting. Just as Diego had said, there lay Felipe in a very sound sleep lying with his head propped up on one of the armrests of the carriage. Diego gently put his hand on Felipe's shoulder and lightly shook him until his eyes fluttered open and he slowly raised up and looked around and rubbed his eyes.
"I'm sorry Felipe, I'm afraid it took a little longer than I thought." Diego replied sympathetically.
Felipe slightly shrugged and smiled.
Diego stepped around to the other side and assisted Victoria into the carriage and then walked around to where Felipe was sitting. He motioned for him to move aside, and Diego hopped in and drove them to the hacienda. On the way, Felipe was still somewhat tired so Victoria wrapped her arm around his shoulder and let him lay his head on her shoulder. By the time they reached the hacienda, Felipe had almost fallen asleep again.
As Diego brought the carriage to a halt, Victoria slightly nudged Felipe and he slowly opened his eyes. As she pulled her arm from around his shoulder, she gently brushed a lock of hair from his forehead and suddenly flashed a concerned look at Diego. Diego turned and looked at her strangely.
"What's the matter Victoria?" Diego inquired somewhat concerned.
Victoria looked at Diego cautiously. "Diego, Felipe feels like he has a fever!" she replied looking concerned.
As Diego reached over and felt Felipe's forehead, he could feel the warmth of the fever upon his face. His initial thought was to remain calm. After all, it wasn't the first time Felipe had been sick. When he was little, he once had a slight fever and two days later he was well. 'Hopefully this is only temporary.' Thought Diego.
"Maybe he just needs a good night's sleep." Diego replied calmly.
However, deep inside Diego was seriously concerned about Felipe's condition. Something was not quite right.